DP World Tour: Rory McIlroy holds off rival Patrick Reed to claim Hero Dubai Desert Classic victory
Rory McIlroy birdied his final two holes to beat Patrick Reed by a shot and make a winning start to 2023; world No 1's victory makes him a three-time winner of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 30/01/23 3:24pm
Rory McIlroy came through an enthralling final-round tussle with rival Patrick Reed to claim a dramatic victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and make a winning start to 2023.
The world No 1 took a three-shot lead into the final round of the Rolex Series event at Emirates Golf Club, only for LIV Golf member Reed - who was involved in a pre-tournament dispute with McIlroy - to jump ahead by making an eagle and five birdies in his first 13 holes.
McIlroy made three birdies in a five-hole stretch from the ninth but bogeyed the 15th, while a dropped shot from Reed at the par-four next raised the possibility of a mouth-watering play-off between the pair.
Reed - playing in the group ahead of the Northern Irishman - birdied the par-five last to close a seven-under 65 and set the clubhouse target at 18 under, but McIlroy produced a birdie-birdie finish to complete a final-round 68 and snatch a one-shot victory.
McIlroy's triumph marks the first time he has won his opening start of a calendar year and also sees him join Ernie Els as a three-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, with his latest success extending his advantage at the top of the world rankings.
How McIlroy edged Dubai thriller
McIlroy opened with three two-putt pars and scrambled to avoid dropping a shot at the par-three fourth after narrowly finding water off the tee, as Reed followed a birdie at the second by rolling in from 20 feet at the par-five next to close within two.
The American missed a good opportunity from half the distance at the next but holed out from a greenside bunker at the sixth to move one behind McIlroy, who got up and down from the sand on the same par-four to maintain his bogey-free start.
Reed clenched his fist in celebration after holing from 10 feet to save par at the ninth and remain at 14 under, as McIlroy ended a run of pars and doubled his advantage by signing off his front nine with an eight-foot birdie.
McIlroy made a two-putt birdie at the par-five 10th to edge back ahead of Reed, who almost holed his incredible approach into the same hole to set up a tap-in eagle, only for his rival to respond by making a six-foot birdie at the next to leave them locked together at the top of the leaderboard.
Reed edged ahead for the first time with a kick-in birdie at the 13th, as McIlroy two-putted from 20 feet on the same par-five and then got up and down from a greenside bunker to save par at the next and remain at 18 under.
McIlroy carded his first bogey of the day when he found rough off the par-three 15th tee and then failed to convert his par-save putt from the fringe, while Reed missed from seven feet to rescue par at the next after a wayward drive left him pitching out from behind a tree.
Reed recovered from finding a bush off the 17th tee to scramble a par, but fell one behind when McIlroy produced a brilliant drive to the front edge of the green and two-putted for birdie.
A two-putt birdie from 35 feet by Reed at the last saw him set the clubhouse target at 18 under, while McIlroy elected to lay-up at the par-five 18th after going inches away from finding water off the tee.
McIlroy pitched onto the green with his third shot - having found the water on the 72nd hole in last year's tournament - before rolling in from 15 feet for a winning birdie to claim a maiden Rolex Series title.
Lucas Herbert carded a six-under 66 to finish in third spot ahead of Callum Shinkwin, while Ian Poulter was in contention for most of the final day until a final-hole double-bogey saw him end the week on 13 under.
The DP World Tour stays in the UAE this week for the Ras al Khaimah Championship, live on Sky Sports Golf on Thursday from 8.30am, while many of this week's field - including the LIV Golf contingent - head to Saudi Arabia for the Asian Tour's PIF Saudi International.
McIlroy will take a week off before returning to the PGA Tour for back-to-back events, with the 33-year-old teeing it up at the WM Phoenix Open from February 9-12 ahead of his appearance at the Genesis Invitational the following week.
Early coverage of the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week - where Gareth Bale makes his debut as one of the celebrity amateurs - begins on Thursday from 4.30pm on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 8pm.
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